piranha feeding time

The Piranhas Diet – What Do Piranhas Actually Eat?

To take your information from Hollywood, you would think that Piranhas are just pack hunters, permanently hungry and roaming around looking for a meal to attack.

In short, most Piranhas are omnivores and eat both meat and fruits, as well as seeds, insects, fish and plant matter. There are a few species that are more aggressive towards meat, but it’s equally true that there are some specifically herbivores amongst the Piranha. The Red-Bellied Piranha is the most aggressive and survives well on normal vegetation as well as fish. Large animals can be stripped to the bone as long as they are already deceased. Piranhas are natural scavengers.

What Do They Eat in the Wild?

The Piranha is sometimes referred to as opportunistic carnivore. It feeds on aquatic and land animals in the water. In his visit to the South American jungle president, Teddy Roosevelt reported seeing a fish that could tear a whole cow to the bones within minutes.

The Hollywood movies have not done any justice to the Piranha fish. It is portrayed as a man-eating creature with an uncontrolled ferocity. It is true that a Piranha school has a huge appetite for flesh if hungry, but they rarely attack large animals, if ever if they are alive. From a carnivorous point of view they eat ..

  • Small fish
  • Mollusks
  • Insects
  • Crustaceans
  • Worms
  • Birds
  • Amphibians
  • Rodents.

However, as some are herbivores, and even the the Red-Bellied is omnivorous, they also eat

  • Fruits
  • Seeds
  • Plant matter

Piranha take bites of the fins of other fish that pass nearby and show signs of cannibalism during the dry spell. These fish do not attack humans unless they think that they have died or are incapacitated. However, can cause minor bites to swimmers during the season when there is a scarcity of food, but this is mostly when their nests are threatened when breeding.

Piranha are generally an omnivorous fish by nature. Despite their muscular jaws and sharp chiseled teeth they love the vegetation as much as they love their meat.

They will feast on fallen fruits, seeds, algae and seaweeds they are suited to respond to the splashing of water and noise made by falling fruits. The Amazon has dense plant growth which supplies food for the Piranha fish.

piranha in an aquarium

How Often Do Piranha Eat

Piranha in the wild eat whenever there is the availability of food in their ecosystem. In an aquarium they will feed once or twice in a day. Juvenile or young Piranha will feed two to four times a day.

Feeding habits vary depending on what you feed your fish, overfeeding your fish will result from increases in waste in your water making it necessary to change the water regularly. Too much waste makes it necessary to maintain the filter system at all times.

Providing a proper diet to Piranha increases the lifespan of your fish and boosts their immunity.

When Do Piranha Eat?

Foraging methods vary in species of Piranha and within each stage of development of the fish. During the day, especially at dawn smaller fish search for food while larger fish will look for food late in the afternoon and early in the evening.

This fish show signs of communal feeding especially during the dry season when there is a shortage of food or when they are triggered by noise, splashing or blood in the water. During feeding frenzies, these fish show signs of communication as the fish on the inner parts of the shoal give way for the ones on the outer parts of the school to have a bite too.

Frenzies occur at any time of the day as long as the fish are triggered by a potential meal, and especially if driven by hunger.

many piranha feeding

What Do You Feed a Pet Piranha?

Piranha in the wild are exposed to a variety of food, and in your food, you should provide feeds similar to those in their natural environment. A balanced diet prevents dietary deficiencies as well as health problems.

A balanced diet will boost growth and increase the life expectancy of your fish. Following a good nutritional guide is essential in rearing aquarium Piranhas.

Here’s what options are available to you.

Live foods

Fish or shrimp; Most people prefer to feed their Piranha fish with other fish, and the most common feed fish are the goldfish and guppies. Fish provide essential nutrients needed by your Piranha fish. However, bred in crowded tanks with poor hygiene they are prone to spreading disease and parasites to your fish.

Once you purchase your feeder fish, it is advisable to keep them under quarantine. You can treat them and kill any potential germs and parasites, thus keeping diseases to a minimum. You can boost  their health by feeding them appropriate healthy nutritious flakes.

Brine shrimp is the best feeder for juvenile and young piranha fish as they are easy to digest. Fish experts advise you to raise your feeder fish properly to keep them healthy.

Mammals; live animals, especially young animals like mice, rarely have give Piranha ill effects from feeding them this kind of food. Mice with hair can cause digestion problems to the digestion. A live mouse can also bite back at your Piranha.

Therefore, it is prudent to feed them dead mice. It is not messy as one might think to feed mice to the Piranhas as it is the same as feeding them large feed animals.

Insects; insects such as crickets, mealworms and other insects that can also be fed to the Piranhas. Farm raised insects from local pet shops are appropriate, but it could be prudent to raise yours on your own if possible.

Insects that are collected on a farm can contain herbicides that could cause potentially harmful to your fish. Mosquito larvae is a good feed for young juvenile piranha, but they should be raised in a clean environment and mosquitoes are most likely to breed in dirty water.

Worms; worms are the safest food for your Piranha; they are the most disease-free food and readily available from your pet store at a low price. They also contain a lot of nutritional value. Worms from your garden could be contaminated and harm your fish, you should, therefore, order them from pet stores or rear them yourself.

black piranha in an aquarium

Frozen Foods

Frozen bait fish; they are found at pet stores at a reasonable cost, and most of them are scented or flavored to entice your fish. Once they are used to the scent, the fish will enjoy their meal without any problem.

Frozen cubes; these are brining shrimp, daphnia, beef heart, shrimp and are good for feeding juvenile Piranha. These cubes are also nutritious for adult fish and you can feed them occasionally.

Dried Foods

Pellets, sticks or flakes; these contain more vitamins and are usually low in proteins and calcium, they should be feed on your fish as supplements.

Freeze dried foods; these are planktons, krill, shrimp, daphnia, tubifex and blood worms. These are high in protein, vitamins, and other trace elements. These are good for feeding juvenile fish and can supplement the diet of adult Piranha.

Fresh Meaty Food

Meaty food from the pet store is frozen to kill bacteria and organisms that would harm your fish. Some of the meaty foods include fish and shrimps which are high in calcium, and their shells are rich in carotene which enhances the color of your Piranha fish. When feeding your fish, it is advisable to remove the head and tails especially if your fish are still young for easy digestion.

Beef and other meat are high in fats and should make a small portion of their diet; fish do not require a high fatty portion as their bodies already produce their own fat.

piranha in an aquarium


Greens; piranhas are naturally omnivorous, and their diet is composed of plants mainly, in a controlled environment you should provide greens such as kales, spinach, and cabbages for proper nutrition. Although your fish might not eat all the vegetables at once, they will not mess up your water as they take time to rot. They will take little bites, but eventually, they will finish their meal and this will keep them busy before you give them the next meaty meal

Weeds in your tank can also make a good meal for your fish, although fish love hiding behind these bushes they will occasionally take little bites thus it is advisable to carefully select the weeds that will not cause harm to your fish.

Nuts, fruits, and seeds; the Amazon region is one of the regions of the world with a plentiful natural pantry. Nuts also make a delicious meal for Piranha. In your aquarium, you should provide them with nuts, fruits, and seeds. The nuts, however, should be inspected thoroughly to avoid harming your fish; some nuts contain chemicals that could harm and inhibit growth in your fish.

What Foods Should You Not Feed a Piranha

It is advisable not to feed your Piranha food which is spicy. Spices and preservatives in these foods can cause harm to your fish. Such food includes hotdogs, packaged turkey, bologna, sauces bacon, and chicken. Most of your table food could be hazardous to the health of your fish.

Goldfish do not make a good meal for your fish as they are known to spread diseases that could be fatal for your fish. Some live feeds could contain growth inhibiting hormones that hinder the development of your fish, consult your pet store when buying new food to avoid such feeds.

Morally speaking, there is also the issue of feeding Piranha live goldfish. Ask yourself whether that would be for the fishes benefit, or yours. Piranha will quite happily eat, or scavenge a dead fish in the water and get the same nutritional benefit.


Caring and feeding your aquarium Piranha is not as hard as you might imagine. Once you know what they eat in the wild you can replicate the same for your fish. Piranha are known to be meat loving fish, omnivorous and therefore feeding them requires more meat in their diet than the average fish.

However, this depends on what Piranha you own, Many are herbivores so you won’t want to feed them meat.

In addition to the meat, you should ensure that you supplement them with vegetables as they are used to eating plant parts such as nuts, fruits, and seeds. Of great importance is ensuring the safety of your fish by inspecting the source of your food to avoid contaminating your aquarium with pathogens and parasites.

Piranha fish can be messy eaters, especially in schools and will need frequent changing of water to avoid contamination. Ensure that you create a routine when feeding your Piranha fish for the best nutritional results, which boosts the immunity of the fish and prolongs their lives.

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